Carl Richardson Jones (Papo)

Dear Papo,

Well, it's me. I've graduated from high school and I've been in and out of college. I may graduate from that someday, but it's not easy for me. I never did like school.

Mima gave us a recipe book filled with some of your best recipes; your chili, your elephant stew, your salsa. I made the chili a few months back and knocked the socks off my roommate. He thanks you for having crafted the best damn chili this side of Texas. :)

Jennifer had a baby, and his name is Brett. You'd have loved being with him; he's an absolute sweetheart, even if he can be a big silly monkey sometimes. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of you.

I have a boyfriend now. What I didn't tell you is I also had a boyfriend back when you asked me about it on the phone that last time. You probably know it now, of course, but I figured I'd mention it. I didn't tell anyone because I was a little afraid. He was older than me, but I was always older than I looked, and I never thought anyone would believe me if I told them that, so I kept it quiet. We're not quiet about it anymore, though. We'll probably get married one of these days...not yet, because I swore I'd finish college first, but someday.

I know Mima misses you, but she does a lot of stuff, too. You're probably happy she's gotten on with her life, actually, and I know that's what you'd want, anyway. She goes to bridge tournaments mostly; she loves to travel and came out to visit me a few months back. Like her I love driving, but you always did too from what I remember.

Anyway, that's all from me. I miss you very much, but I'm sure you know that, too, by now. Someday I'll get around to visiting your graveside and leaving you some of the truffles I've started making. They're great, trust me.

Love,
Steph

Carl Richardson Jones was born February 12, 1919. He lived during the Depression and met his wife (my grandmother, two years his younger) on a blind date. He saw a string of hardships early on in life--his father was an alcoholic, and (though it was never conclusively determined) those who knew him suspect that he committed suicide when he couldn't find any work to support his family. Carl had a younger brother, Ralph, who he was close to, and a younger sister who died of pneumonia in her infancy. His mother (Doris) remarried to help support the family and her children changed their names to match their new father's (Albert Jones).

He married Marjorie Russell and nine months later entered into WWII. While Carl could have avoided entering the war (the local recruiting office had lost his draft card), he insisted and entered the Navy. A daughter, Carol, was born to the couple in 1943, but Carl didn't get to see her until she was a year old due to his participation in the war effort.

Carl made it out of the war alive. Marjorie's brother, Wilbur "Red" Russell, was not so lucky...his ship was taken captive and sunk by the Japanese a year into the war. Red was killed along with much of the crew. Carl himself narrowly escaped several close shaves--including a ship transfer from a vessel that, a day later, broke in half in the middle of the ocean and took many of the sailors on it to their grave at the bottom of the sea. This would later be attributed to what is called the "Jones Luck".

With his wife, Carl started a restaurant, eventually getting the number up to three. He had an innovative idea for his restaurants--no matter what day of the week, no matter which restaurant you went to, the food would always be consistent. To this day, my mother swears that there was a young exec who used to eat at my grandfather's restaurant, and that this young exec happened to work for a new restaurant called "McDonald's"....

(Of course, the big difference here was--Carl's food was actually good!)

Carl had three children in all: Carol, Carl Jr., and Cathy. Carol and Cathy married young and had children, Carl Jr. would also later marry, but largely went off on his own. Carl Sr. loved his grandchildren, but the first of them, Jennifer, had a tough time pronouncing "grampa" and "grandma", so (as children are prone to doing) she abbreviated the names. The titles stuck, and from that point onward no one called Marjorie or Carl by their given names; they officially became "Mima" and "Papo" to both grandchildren and children alike.

(To this day people at the place where my grandmother works call her Mima! She's "everyone's grandmother".)

In 1977 or so Carol moved to California with her then-husband, Philip. Mima and Papo had since retired from the restaurant business and joined them a year or two later, moving into a condo in Palm Desert. A few years later Philip and Carol got a divorce and their youngest daughter, Stephanie, spent a large amount of time with her grandparents during this tough time.

If there were two things Papo was known for (aside from his culinary experiments), it was his love for jokes and telling stories. He lavished attention on his grandchildren, and Stephanie especially enjoyed talking and listening to him and Mima. She loved to hear his stories, and she laughed at all his jokes. In many respects he was as much a grandfather as a real father.

The family moved again in 1985, this time (briefly) to Colorado, leaving Papo and Mima in California. When the family returned, they were financially in a lot of trouble; Papo and Mima graciously allowed them to live in their home until they got back on their feet.

A year later, the family had moved away again, and now it was Mima and Papo's turn to move: this time back to Ohio, where they'd initially started out. They bought a house (with cash) and lived there for a time. Sometimes Papo would come out to visit the family in California, and sometimes Stephanie would go out (for months at a time) to visit them. Those were perhaps the best times, as the two of them would go picking berries and walking down by the river, talking about life, the universe, and everything.

When Stephanie was sixteen her grandfather died suddenly of a heart attack. She last saw him a few months before, and something about that visit had told her it was the last one. The last time she talked to him was over the phone, when he asked her how she was doing and just when she was going to get a boyfriend as a pretty little girl like her should have had at least one by now.

A few months after his death, Carl's brother Ralph also died of a heart attack. He was survived by a wife, but no children.

Carl Richardson Jones was buried in Cleveland, Ohio. He died on May 6th, 1992. In the December of '92 the entire Jones family got together for Christmas and to say goodbye to their beloved grandfather. At the Christmas party, Carl Jr. (now Sr.) left out a plate of food for Papo. Later, when the family talked about how they wished he could have been there, Stephanie's brother said, "He was."

Stephanie Cass
May 5, 1998